Leading female talking drummer Aralola Olumuyiwa aka Ara recently unveiled a reality television show for street urchins tagged, Eko Inspire Me By Ara. Ara, who explained that the initiative was born 10 years ago by her experience with street urchins, believed that the initiative would definitely bring real change to real lives.
Ara who opened up on the birth of the project, her encounter with God and how she went from hero to zero.
HOW do you think the government can tackle the challenges in the industry?
I wouldn’t say the government is the problem in the entertainment industry. Government can help in putting policies in place that would help our intellectual properties that would also help fund projects by our industry.
What actually brought about the Inspire Me project?
It was in Oshodi about 10 years ago when my car broke down. It was actually my younger brother’s car. I had to call for backup. These guys came at me. I was scared. At first I put my phone in my socks and all of that. Then I said guys help me guide my car, I am coming.
I put them to work. I didn’t let them harass me. Then, I moved away and made a call then, I went back with my people. I then asked what they were doing on the streets, that they ought to be in school. They were talking and waving their handkerchief saying that they also wanted to go to school but didn’t have anyone to send them. I was like what happened? They said a whole lot. Some were orphans, some lost their mother – a lot of very touching stories.
I asked them what inspires them or do they not feel that it is possible for them to travel and see other parts of the world. They looked at me strangely. I asked if they get harassed by the police? They said yes but whenever they pick them they will drop us. Na dem go tire.
I asked one if he were not on the streets who would he want to be like? He said he wants to be like Wizkid, others said some other things but one said that he wants to be like Professor Wole Soyinka, I was like how come! He said that baba speaks grammar, I want to also speak grammar like him. That touched me. There and then, Inspire Me was born. 10 years down the line, here we are. It is a vision, a project that God took me from up to down.
Tired of muscle and joint problems?
Try this tip from a legendary innovator from Nigeria
God took you from up to down, please explain how?
All of a sudden everything stopped working. People that would call for shows all of a sudden, everything stopped. Shows that I get paid N3m is what people would be pricing for N100,000. To cut the long story short, I became homeless, I couldn’t afford to feed, couldn’t pay my child’s school fees, I sold all of my cars, sold my hummer jeep, Hilux, things started going bad. It got to a stage where I said this must be the hand of God. Something is wrong. I went for prayers and I was told that nobody is fighting me, that this is God. Listen to him. He wants to use you for something but you are not listening to him. I said okay but you know we are stubborn. I started fighting God, I suffered the more.
For almost one year, I lived in one room in a hotel. This is in 2019. But you see the day I cried like the prodigal son, I said, God this is me, whatever you want to do with me, you made me, you moulded me, please, forgive me, I have come back to you. What do you want me to do?
So, what happened next?
In 1999, a photographer to a family friend who was very close to us came running to my place one afternoon. Then I was still in my parent’s house at Ajao estate, he lived in Mafoluku. I was sleeping. My mother told them to wake me and that photo wants to see me. That he is from Bayelsa.
I went. He said, Lola, I dey dream o. I dream and I see you this afternoon. God bring your picture come do am like this for my face, say go and look for my daughter, tell her to serve me, to seek me everything she wants, I will give her. If she does not serve me, if she does not seek me, she will see paper and call it money on the floor. And it happened to me. I thought it was a joke.
So, how did you find your way back to the initiative?
When things started happening to me, when I went through that process of from hero to zero, I remembered that dream. Meanwhile, I have dumped this project. I went back to God to say that the people that would help me is You. It is not how talented, connected or how popular I am now, it is You. If this is your hand God, bring the people. The day the governor called me, I nearly entered the gutter. I said this is God. Let me share something. The day I received the endorsement letter on December 22, I took that letter and I was going home to share with my younger brother. I got home, opened the envelope, there was no letter there.
It disappeared. Till today, I don’t know where it disappeared to. I didn’t go anywhere. I called the ministry to ask if I left it, they said I didn’t because I folded it and kept it. We thoroughly searched for it. Meanwhile, I told the DG that it has taken almost 10 years to get the letter from Lagos state. He asked what happened, I told him it was spiritual that he cannot understand. When I didn’t find that letter I called him back and said sir, I can’t find that letter. He said that is the only original copy they did that they only have photocopies.
I told him not to worry that I would work with it, that he should please give it to me. But before 11pm, he called me back. I had said to God if it is you, you would do something again. Before 11pm, they called me again to say they were able to get the honourable commissioner to sign another original. I got it back. Today the honourable commissioner is here. I did not meet him one on one until a few weeks ago in his office.
What are your plans for this project?
We would be having a reality television show but we are starting with auditions across Lagos for them. Once we pick them based on talent, Nigerians would vote for the top 20 that would go in the house. When they are in that academy, we would have our registrar, rector and deans of talent factory, deans of education, deans of IT, deans of sports and deans of skills and vocation. We will task them based on these.
Most of the activities are out of the house. 60 per cent would be out of the house unlike big brother, that is inside. This is real life, real changes. Most of their tasks could be out there which is reintegration. Few weeks ago, I invited 10 of them to lunch, they didn’t want them to enter the eatery.
And Baba Obasanjo has told me to bring them for mentoring. When I told them that they are going to meet the former president of the country, immediately I saw the transformation in them. The joy for me is seeing their lives being transformed, see the joy in their eyes and know that they are not useless.
It is an ongoing project as long as God permits us. The academy will run throughout the year, the reality TV show would be once a year. We are hoping our real estate moguls would dash us one building for it. We are still praying. I don’t have any fears, I know that God would do it. it is not me. I am on auto drive.
With all of these including your previous experience, are you going to give love a chance again?
I intend to when the right person comes. I definitely will. They have been coming but I am a very careful person, I don’t want to get married again and get out of it. Of course, I have had my heart broken again but because I am being too careful now that I am letting God take control, I believe that God wants this project to settle, that is my belief, once this project is settled, other things can fall in place. It is all in God’s hands.
Have you stopped singing for this project?
I am still singing. I released two musical videos in the last two months and they are thriving. We are shooting another one soon. This is my gift back.
Do you intend to open a church, now that you are fully into God?
No, the guy that gave us light was not a pastor. I want to say something. There is a man of God that I have never met but his messages transformed my life. Joshua Salman. I have never met him. I stumbled on his youtube page and and from the day that I started watching and joining prayers, my life has never been the same again. I want to also say a big thank you to him, God bless him and I hope to meet him soon.
Any other passion you intend to exhibit?
In music and entertainment there are stuff I am doing that will be unveiled later but this one is my gift back, my passion project, my CSR.